Harris Sokoloff

Adjunct Associate Professor, Certification Officer
Director, Center for School Study Councils
Faculty Director, Penn Project on Civic Engagement

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania

Phone: 215-898-7371

Email: harriss@gse.upenn.edu

Professional Biography

As the director of the Center for School Study Councils, Dr. Sokoloff is responsible for working with school superintendents, school boards, and district staff to help them keep pace with state-of-the-art educational and management theory, research, and practice. In that role, he develops and conducts more than 50 workshops and seminars on educational leadership issues each academic year for school superintendents in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

His initiatives with school districts and community organizations include a variety of projects to create opportunities to engage students in school and community problem-solving, as well as to build stronger, more productive relationships between schools and their communities. For example, he worked with high school students, teachers, and community officials in Bensalem Township (Pa.) to develop community-based principles and designs for developing the waterfront there. In the Camp Hill School District (Pa.), he worked with the district and community to provide common-ground values-based principles that provided the foundation for the construction of a community performing arts center. In the Hopewell Valley School District (N.J.), Dr. Sokoloff guided the district in creating a "community agenda" of values and goals that could serve as a touchstone for the district's educational strategic planning efforts. He developed the Franklin Conference on School Design as well as the National Summit on School Design for the American Architecture Foundation.

Dr. Sokoloff is currently on the Executive Committee of the Education Policy Leadership Center and has served on the on the boards of the National Liberty Museum and Education Center, Perelman Jewish Day School, American Theater Arts for Youth, and was an associate of the Kettering Foundation.

As founder and director of the Penn Project for Civic Engagement (PPCE), he has designed and implemented community engagement projects ranging locally and nationally. His Citizen Voices, a project of the Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board, won the National Batten Award for Civic Journalism. PPCE sponsors the Civic Engagement Institute, a summer institute at Penn GSE that focuses on teaching the theory and practice of deliberative democracy.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Sokoloff's applied research focuses on student civic engagement and community development, particularly the (re)building of a public for public education through the use of deliberative public forums. As director of the Penn Project on Civic Engagement, he designs and implements civic engagement projects in the region. Current work includes The Big Canvas and The City Budget: Tight Times, Tough Choices projects, both in partnership with WHYY. The latter engaged more than 1,700 taxpayers in deliberative budget workshops; Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has credited those deliberations with informing his budget development. Dr. Sokoloff continues to develop similar civic engagement projects to engage taxpayers in deliberative processes to inform policy development. Other projects focus on ways for communities to address the dropout rate in Philadelphia, challenges of integrating new immigrants into commercial corridors, and mental health policy. In addition, Dr. Sokoloff has worked with more than 80 educational organizations on a range of organizational development and improvement projects, strategic planning, and organizational redesign.